While I consider how I might leave, I see a silver thread in the distance. At least, I think it is in the distance. Now the room has disappeared, and all is darkness. I have no way of judging such things.
The thread moves and expands. It is a portal, but different from those before. I sense iron and gods. My rage sustains me as I wait for those on the other side to reveal themselves.
The portal widens quickly, and I see my father and mother. The rest of my full siblings are behind them. It appears they have found me. Either Ares revealed his secrets or they have joined with him to…to do what? To say goodbye? To kill me? I am not afraid. I never have been.
My father steps through and looks around, seemingly displeased by the darkness. He raises his hand and the space we are in expands as the darkness retreats. Now all is white, but featureless. Below me, the floor is as white as pearl, but without pattern. Above me, there is now a ceiling of white. Far off in the distance there are white walls. The portal they have entered through has now become solid wooden doors. My father is truly powerful, as I have always been told.
They come towards me. Like me, they are not afraid, but perhaps they should be. I see Ares and my anger increases, if that is possible. He dares to come here after all he has done to me?
My mother walks quickly, outpacing my father. “Hephaestus, it has taken me so long to find you.”
“Tell Ares not to come any closer,” I say, not fooled by her apparent concern.
My father shakes his head slowly. “This is not the work of Ares.”
Again, they must defend him. My mother hurries to my side. She examines me, concern etched in her face. “Hephaestus, it was Ares who helped to find you. We sensed you were gone. All of us, though I most of all. Ares remembered seeing you, long ago, dressed as you are now. He helped us. He wanted to help you.”
Ares walks beside my parents as confident as ever, but there is something else in his eyes. Sadness? Ares does not know sadness or sorrow, only anger. He stops in front of me. “Hephaestus, Brother, I have not done this. I could not. You are my brother. Always.”
Liar. Traitor. He cannot be trusted.
My father moves closer, and says, “Whoever did this is much more powerful than Ares.”
There are others. My siblings who sat round the table and plotted with Ares, and someone else. Thanatos?
My father turns to him. “Thanatos? Is this the work of Hypnos?”
Thanatos looks around, closes his eyes, and concentrates for a moment. “My brother is dead. He is not here. But he could have a hand in this.”
My sister Eris is smoking a cigarette. It seems inappropriate somehow.“How can that be if he is dead?”
Thanatos considers this ruefully. “He has not always been so. He may have prepared something like this long ago and left someone to do his bidding.”
Enyo, ever angry, ever keen to find an enemy, shouts, “Like you, Thanatos? Are you sure you and your twin do not share the same aims?”
Thanatos remains calm. “If I had wished to ally myself with Hypnos, you would have greater worries than this place, my intemperate friend.”
Hypnos? I know that name. How do I know that name? I cannot recall.
Ares points at Trismegistus. “What about one who travels through time? Could he have encountered Hypnos?”
Suddenly everyone is looking at my friend. I consider what Ares has said. How had Trismegistus known where I was before everyone else?
Ares stands on one side of Trismegistus, examining him as if he is some curiosity, some statue brought from a faraway place. Enyo stands on the other side, hands on hips, performing a similar function.
I will not have my friend attacked. I will not have him blamed for the work of Ares. “Leave him alone. He has done nothing but serve.”
Moxie tilts her head, looking at my friend, who appears offended, though not concerned. “I sense no deceit within him, no artifice. Perhaps he didn’t know. Maybe he thought he was serving you or he is under some kind of enchantment?”
I wish Nemesis were here. She would know the truth. All look to my father, who looks to Thanatos.
The God of Death strides forward and places his hand on the arm of Trismegistus. The sorcerer pulls away instinctively before realising that is not an option. Thanatos closes his eyes. “I cannot tell. Perhaps if I took him to Tartarus, we could find the truth.”
Trismegistus is a great sorcerer, perhaps the greatest who has ever lived. If he is against us, how could he be contained? How can he be stopped? Perhaps my mother could manipulate Trismegistus’s mind? If we were to join together, repugnant though the idea is to me, perhaps he could be defeated. I am still considering this, still strategising, when Ares punches the old man in the side of the head, launching him off his feet. Trismegistus goes flying and lands on what passes for the ground, knocked unconscious.
All look at Ares who shrugs. “It seemed like the thing to do.”
The space we are in loses some of its lustre. A crack appears in a wall and my father, with a wave of his great hand, stabilizes things. He then looks at Trismegistus. “We will take him with us. We will discover what has happened here.”
Eris observes the scene somewhat laconically, blowing smoke and watching it rise. “But what was the point in all this? Even if it were Hypnos behind it all, why would he want Hephaestus imprisoned? What good would that do him? And he’s failed, hasn’t he? A bit ill thought out for him, isn’t it?”
My father talks to himself as if he has not heard their question. “I’m sure all will become clear.”
Eris mistakes his response for one side of a conversation. “Also, even if he arranged it all long ago, he must have help now. Someone on the outside must be directing this kind of thing for him, working with him, surely?”
My father ignores the question entirely.
I am not sure if Eris is expecting any response to their questions. They seem to be thinking out loud. “And why did he keep getting pulled towards Ares? Was that part of the plan?”
My mother comes to me, touching my arm once more. My anger has dissipated somewhat, although I am still furious with all of them. I am unsure whether I am right to be so. My thoughts are confused.
“Hephaestus, when you were missing, your father and I gathered all of our children, all your full brothers and sisters, to help you. We are a family, Hephaestus. You are my son.”
Words are just words. I remember now. I remember everything. I cannot bring myself to reply.
She places her hands on my face, one on each cheek, forcing me to look at her. “Hephaestus, you are my son. I brought our family together to help you. I brought them here to help you. I have tried to bring love to you. I want you to be back with us. I want you to return to be with us, truly with us. The past is the past, and we must never speak of it. You must be by my side, Hephaestus, always. You must never leave us again.”
I look at the woman, mother of Ares, my eyes empty. “Of course, Mother.”
There was a name people had mentioned. I cannot remember it now. They say he may have been the one who imprisoned me. As I leave with my family and my father removes the place I have been in, destroying it forever, I think about how, if it was him, he has failed. What could he have hoped to achieve? I think about that as I walk among my family, who have always hated me, betraying me at every opportunity. I think about all the memories I have of their behaviour. The memories I now know are true and that I will never speak of with them. I think about whether I will have to take action regarding this matter at some point. If I do, will I need help? Is there anyone who might support me?
I am Hephaestus, God of Forge and Fire.